Category Archives: Iraq

He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Caliph? Not Me.

Today, the mainstream news media is beside itself with the revelation that ISIS (a western media construction) has declared a caliphate in the territory they hold in Iraq. So what?

For ages I’ve read right-wing commentaries that concern themselves with the possible declaration of a caliphate. In all cases, the commentaries have been melodramatic to the point of hysteria. The ever-paranoid Daniel Pipes claims it’s “what the terrorists want”. Really? How does he know that? He doesn’t. Yet, Andrew Gilligan regards Pipes as some kind of authority. The fool.

The Roman Catholic church has a pope and an entire city-state.

The Greek and Eastern Orthodox churches have their patriarchs. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch is still called “The Patriarch of Constantinople”, even though the name of the city was changed to Istanbul many years ago.

So what’s the big deal?

The neo-cons and their friends would have us all believe that the declaration of a caliphate is something non-Muslims should fear. Yet, the Ottoman Empire declared itself a caliphate with the Ottoman Sultan as its caliph. The Ottomans were Sunni Muslims, which meant that Shia Muslims rejected the caliphate. Many countries with large Muslim populations, like Malaysia and Indonesia, didn’t recognise the Ottoman Empire’s claim. Interestingly, the West never got into a lather about the Ottoman Caliphate, it was accepted without question or anxiety. Britain and France actually fought on behalf of the fatally weakened Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War to prevent the Russian Empire from seizing territories that had flaked off the larger empire. In fact Britain took advantage of the Ottoman Empire’s weakness and cut deals with the Emir of Kuwait in the 1890s.

So who’s afraid of the big bad caliph? Not me.

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Wikileaks, Iraq and the Salvador Option

Hats off to Julian Assange and Wikileaks for their assiduous work in uncovering yet more shocking and shameful stories of torture, murder, arbitrary violence and wanton brutality carried out in the name of [enduring] freedom and democracy. While the British media have focussed on examples of US and Iraqi brutality, The Guardian advises us that,

“Some have been killed by indiscriminate attacks on civilians or the unjustified use of lethal force. Others have been killed in custody by UK forces and no one knows how many Iraqis lost their lives while held in British detention facilities”.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers,

…cited one case in which he claimed a British rifleman had shot dead an eight-year-old girl who was playing in the street in Basra. “For some reason the tank stopped at the end of the street, she’s there in her yellow dress, a rifleman pops up and blows her away.

Years ago, this kind of information would have taken ages to assemble, let alone gather. When John Negroponte was chosen as US Ambassador to Iraq in 2004, I immediately suspected that he would employ the same tactics that he did in Honduras and El Salvador; namely, that he employed death squads to roam the country looking for ‘insurgents’ to murder (the so-called Salvador Option). For examplewhile Negroponte was Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 he met the leader of the notorious death squad Battalion 3-16, General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez on many occasions. My suspicions were realized when I saw this,

THE Pentagon is considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago.

Under the so-called “El Salvador option”, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders, even in Syria, where some are thought to shelter.

For all the talk of bringing ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to Iraq, it was clear from the outset that the Iraq invasion was about oil.  We were told how Saddam Hussein killed ‘his own people’ and why it was necessary to topple him – it was a smokescreen. The end was used to justify the means: go in, secure the oilfields and make up the defence later.

UPDATE 18/4/11 @ 14.55

Yes, it was all about oil. From the Independent.

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”

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Nation-states, self-determination and having the right to possess your own nuclear device.

Nuclear weapons: every country should have one?

A couple of days ago, the UN Security Council, which is dominated by the victors of WWII and a few of their friends, voted to impose further sanctions on Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program. Now I am not a fan of the Iranian regime or the Revolutionary Guard but there is an awful lot of talk about themes such as ‘self-determination’ and ‘the right to exist’ but more often than not those themes are mentioned within the confines of Israel’s existence. If we are going to keep the current world formation of  nation-states with their overlapping (and occasionally contradictory) trading and ‘defence’ blocs, then surely it stands to reason that all countries have the right to exist and have the right to self-determination and those rights shouldn’t be in the gift of a small group of people who already possess a good deal of power and influence.

But what about Iran’s nuclear weapons progam, I hear some people cry. The truth is that there is no hard evidence that Iran actually has the capability to produce such a weapon and most of the commentators who talk darkly about an Iranian state bristling with nuclear weapons do so because they want a war with Iran. They want this war because they never recovered from the way in which their puppet, the Shah was ousted and all national assets – including oil- were seized by the revolutionary government. The desire for a war with Iran has very little to do with human rights or any other kind of rights, it is all about oil, oil, oil.

Furthermore, if Israel didn’t have a covert nuclear weapons program, I doubt Iran would have even bothered to begin the development of one…that is, if they have one or are working towards one.  Israel doesn’t face UN sanctions for its nuclear ambitions nor does it pay any attention to UNSC resolutions which are often vetoed by the US, UK and others.

It has been noted in the past that because there is no oil in many of those countries under authoritarian regimes, the West does no more than wring its hands. Burma, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and others are routinely lambasted for their lack of human rights but are not invaded nor do Western governments make bellicose noises in their direction. If oil was discovered off the coast of Burma/Myanmar, the Western powers would move hell and earth to oust the military regime.

At the forefront in the call for a war against Iran is Israel who acts as the West’s ‘eyes and ears’ in the Middle East. Indeed, Israel will make all kinds of claims with regards to Iran, even pointing to Gaza and claiming that it’s a nest of pro-Iranian vipers in order to justify their continued and illegal blockade.

I find it tragic that some people will continue to fall for the same old lies time and again. Remember Iraq and  Saddam Hussein’s alleged cache of WMD? I bet Tony Blair remembers and he still continues to insist that it was “the right thing to do” even though there were no WMD and the entire drive to invade Iraq was generated by the need to take back the oilfields that the West had lost when they were nationalised by Qasim in 1959. Of course, few politicians in this country and the US will ever mention Qasim or the real history of Iraq and how the nation’s oil was divided between the British, the French, the Americans and the Dutch in 1917 (Calouste Gulbenkian got 5% of the shares for brokering the ‘deal’); or how Iraq remained under British occupation until 1953.  We can’t let historical facts get in the way of ,er, democracy – right?

In the final analysis, it’s all about the filthy stuff that comes out of the ground; the same filthy stuff that continues to pollute the planet. As the old saying goes “where there’s muck there’s brass”. So which country should have the right to tell another country that they can’t have nuclear weapons? I’m not in favour of nukes. I hate them. I wish they weren’t there, but none of us can go back in time and assassinate the scientists working on the Manhattan Project. Now can we?But what if every country had its own nuclear device? Which one would be the first to press the button? It’s a heavy responsibility for anyone to bear. You can kill your enemy but, at the same time, you will find yourself running the risk of being nuked after having done the initial nuking.  This stand-off between the so-called ‘free’ and ‘communist’ hemispheres was referred to as  “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “MAD”. How apt.

Are we living through another MAD phase? Don’t ask.

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